Gibb River Road and Gorges etc

Submitted: Saturday, Jun 19, 2021 at 22:31
ThreadID: 142002 Views:3548 Replies:5 FollowUps:9
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This is a really naïve question I know, but can I get some genuine answers/advice please?
My wife and I want to drive the Gibb River Road and see all/most of the gorges/sites along the way. We have a Mazda CX-5 AWD and intend buying an AUSRV Superlite Off-road Camper. The CX-5 has the theoretical capacity to tow this camper, just. I have a reasonable amount of experience on horrifically corrugated roads, on large road motorcycles, nonetheless I know what corrugations do to a vehicle. Welding required at Jervois Station and again at Ayers Rock:-). This was nearly 40 years ago on the Plenty Hwy.

I suspect I already know the answer, but is there any chance at all that the CX-5 setup could do, and survive, the journey??

Given that the CX-5 won't do it, what would be the best/cheapest vehicle that would? I don't think hiring is an option, we would buy and then resell once our off-road tripping was done. Price is the most important factor, a 100 thousand dollar Land Cruiser is not an option.

Phil Wynter
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Reply By: Stephen H15 - Saturday, Jun 19, 2021 at 23:03

Saturday, Jun 19, 2021 at 23:03
The GRR is generally a bitch of a road to drive--and that's without towing. If your present car "just" has towing capacity, I suggest something like a good used Mazda BT 50 Reliable big car which has been deemed a "true" 3-tonne tow vehicle. Something around 2013-4 may fit your finances and can be sold off later. Extra weight of fuel containers, water, extra tyres, etc. etc. always have to be incorporated in your plans. Haven't been along there for several years but another suggestion is getting a fair idea on how much fuel you THINK you need and then carry an extra 25-30 % for the side-track deviations/sightseeing and towing weight. Hopefully, others will also put forward ideas. Good luck. Some great sights but beware of the conditions. Contact Derby and Kununurra Councils for road conditions very close to the time you will be reaching the area. One last thing. I have heard that most, if not all, camping spots in the north of Aust. are pretty-well booked out at present so be prepared for that, presuming you are travelling sometime soonish.
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Follow Up By: Phil.w - Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 10:39

Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 10:39
Hi Stephen H15,
Thanks very much for the reply and the great information and suggestions. One of my sons used to own a BT50 and they are great vehicles.
Phil Wynter
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Reply By: RMD - Saturday, Jun 19, 2021 at 23:04

Saturday, Jun 19, 2021 at 23:04
Maybe it would be a good idea to learn how the AWD is really front wheel drive until the system detects sufficient anomalies to connect the rear axle to the front drive system. SO really a two wheel drive until.
It may not be the weight of the towed camper but the ball weight which will reduce the rear wheel upward travel clearance and could be a problem is asked to negotiate heavy corrugations with less travel than designed, all while handling the mass of the towed item. Most vehicles asked to do heavy work require better performance shock absorbers than the ability of std ON road ones. It could survive, ie, in the Round Aus rally many many years ago, a Peugeot 504 ran all the way with OE suspension, no failures, the 3 Oldhens/Commodores used 1 set of front suspension each for every of the 13 days. Yes, 39 sets of front end to ensure reliability. Speed of travel will be a factor.
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Follow Up By: Phil.w - Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 10:44

Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 10:44
Thanks RMD,
After some Googling; Yes, you are correct re the 'AWD' status of the CX-5. It is an 'on demand' electronic controlled setup, definitely not a 'hard' connected setup.
Thanks for the advice,
Phil Wynter
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Reply By: Member - McLaren3030 - Sunday, Jun 20, 2021 at 07:57

Sunday, Jun 20, 2021 at 07:57
Hi Phil,

You could do the Gibb River Road in a two wheel drive, many of the locals do, however, their vehicles are generally pretty well “stuffed”. I suspect that the corrugations will be pretty bad given the expected number of vehicles that will be travelling the road this year. As RMD has already noted, an AWD is not a “true” 4WD, and dose not have the same strength in the suspension as true high ground clearance 4WD. If you intend selling afterwards, even a secondhand 100 series Landcruiser may be a good choice. Parts for these are still readily available if needed.

I would equally be worried about a “superlite” camper trailer. It actually may not be strong enough regardless of the so called “Off Road” label. The Kalumburu Road and the Mitchell Falls Road are renowned for breaking trailers.


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Follow Up By: Phil.w - Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 10:52

Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 10:52
Hi McLaren3030,
Given that we will now be buying a second hand 4wd with greater towing capacity, it would be good to also look at the robustness of the camper we get. Thanks for the info re Kalumburu and Mitchell Falls roads. I hadn't actually thought about the effect the extra COVID traffic must be having on our outback roads, but of course they will be under a lot more pressure now.

Phil Wynter
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Reply By: Life Member - Duncan W (WA) - Tuesday, Jun 22, 2021 at 10:11

Tuesday, Jun 22, 2021 at 10:11
Hi Phil, I drove a section of the GRR on Saturday (19th), in a Suburu Forrester hire car. 1st section up to the Fairfield Leopold Downs Rd is bitumen except for a 8km section which was a doddle. We only went as far as Tunnel Creek and back but that 55km was again in good nick with minimal corrugations.

BTW the water level currently in Tunnel Creek is high and you need to either swim or if tall enough its a chin high walk through the water to get to the other end.

I'd give the various stations and road houses a call just before you leave to get road conditions as of that date. Things change virtually by the day. As is always the case drive to the conditions. The corrugations are annoying but it will be the stones that can give you more grief if you have the wrong tyres. I'd be upgrading your tyres to A/T at the very least and have a talk to a good suspension company regarding your cars suspension.

Look at a new or 2nd had Pajero as a tow vehicle option, very comfortable, and inexpensive, and also the Broome & Kununurra Hire companies use them a lot.

Enjoy the trip.
Make sure you give back more than you take

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Follow Up By: Phil.w - Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 10:59

Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 10:59
Thanks for that Duncan,
It is clear that we will need a 4wd to see the sights we want to. Even if we travelled light, the CX-5 would be destroyed by the time we got back. Hiring a 4wd for these kind of trips is very expensive so a 2nd hand vehicle is the go.
Between the great replies I have had there are three 4wds suggested, time for some Google review searches re reliability and parts availability.
Phil Wynter
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Follow Up By: Kanga1 - Sunday, Jun 27, 2021 at 13:35

Sunday, Jun 27, 2021 at 13:35
Doing a reccy Dunc, you sneaky devil. ??
Tempus Fugit


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Reply By: Phil.w - Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 11:19

Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 11:19
Thank you all for the great replies. I was wondering what kind of responses I would get to what was a silly question. CX-5 and GRR just don't belong in the same sentence:-).

Not sure when we are doing this as it depends on my Wife's work, so that will give Narelle and I time to get some research done on all of the information we have been given.

Thanks again,
Phillip Wynter
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Follow Up By: Stephen H15 - Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 22:56

Saturday, Jun 26, 2021 at 22:56
Whenever you do go, the more you pre-plan the better. When you have finished, I hope that you give a report on this forum. I'd be interested to hear the conditions, etc. as you travelled. I would like to get back there one day---after the Lotto win. Enjoy and safe driving. :) :)
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Sunday, Jun 27, 2021 at 08:45

Sunday, Jun 27, 2021 at 08:45
If you wait for a Lotto win the GRR will be all bituminised.

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Follow Up By: Member - David M (SA) - Sunday, Jun 27, 2021 at 11:29

Sunday, Jun 27, 2021 at 11:29
Gather your not a fan of "positive thinking" then Allan. :)
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Sunday, Jun 27, 2021 at 11:33

Sunday, Jun 27, 2021 at 11:33
Nah, I'm a positive doer Dave.

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